Alan Cohn hoping key issues will bring out Democrats in CD15 race


There has been a plethora of stories in recent months about the Democratic Party's historic inability to generate voter turnout in midterm elections like the one coming up this November. One liberal leaning blogger recently said there were five issues that could instill an urgency for Democrats this fall, and as CL reported yesterday, the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case could be one of them. 

That ruling allows some businesses to claim religious exemption and not follow the Affordable Health care's contraception-coverage mandate. Such a ruling could fire up single women, since research shows it's an issue that could compel that key Democratic Party constituency to show up at the polls in November.

Alan Cohn is banking on that issue and others to create an unexpected Democratic surge to make him more competitive in his race against GOP incumbent Dennis Ross in the CD 15 race this fall. 

Two weeks ago, a Democratic Party poll showed that Cohn trailed Ross by a seven point margin, 42-35 percent. But that same poll said that after voters were read "balanced paragraphs" from each candidate's resume, that poll showed a statistical dead heat.

Most political analysts, looking at the dramatic fundraising total difference between the incumbent and the challenger, however, still think the contest in Polk and Eastern Hillsborough County is Ross' to lose. Not surprisingly, Cohn disagrees with the conventional wisdom, and says if he can get out the minority vote, he can win.

But isn't that the Democrats' dilemma going into this fall's midterms?

On Monday night Cohn attended a fundraiser held in his honor hosted by land use attorney Pamela Jo Hatley in North Tampa. The 51-year-old Democratic first-time candidate appeared nearly a half-hour into the event, as he was delayed by dialing for dollars up until 6 p.m. that afternoon — something that is nearly a daily requirement for the underdog candidate in his attempt to win what has been a considered a relatively safe GOP-leaning district.

"The results of the poll have already resulted in a huge increase for support for our campaign," Cohn said confidently to CL before entering the party. "We even had today some top CEO's give the legal maximum, and we've been getting that reaction not only in the Tampa area but from people around the country who see this as a race that can and needs to be won."

Cohn then added what virtually every politico says: "We will get our message out."

But to do that he needs to raise his profile, which usually means raising money to air television commercials. And to do that he has to increase the fundraising, big-time. Second quarter fundraising totals won't be known for awhile, but for the period ending on March 31, Ross had raised $717,695 vs. Cohn's relatively modest $159,966.  

"Can we compete with the Koch Brothers? Hell no," the former television journalist says  "But what is very, very clear is that we have the strength of message and we have the resources to get that out. Here's another important part of this: the numbers we're talking about being even is based on the universe as it stands today. You have to remember that we have a lot of members of the Hispanic community — almost 17 percent of likely voters. Twelce percent of likely voters are African-Americans. If I get people registered to vote, and get them to the polls, we win. And we're going to be able to do that because of the strength of our message."

That message includes supporting initiatives like comprehensive immigration reform and raising the minimum wage. Ross somewhat infamously made national news when he dismissed the concept of doing so to an Arby's employee at a town hall meeting, a meeting that was captured on camera and quickly went viral. "This is a moderate district, and Mr. Ross is out of touch with the people who live in the majority in the district," Cohn says, adding that the aforementioned recent survey found over 60 percent of those queried in the district couldn't name their representative, making it more like an open seat, he says.

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